It has been more than a year since I began a relationship with a woman who has changed my life, and I'm so pleased I can finally share her with you.
Her name is Melanie Barrick. She's the protagonist of my new novel, Closer Than You Know, which releases today at bookstores across the U.S. and Canada, and on March 15 in the U.K. I became more attached to Melanie than any character I've ever written (including the one I based on myself). And I'm giving those irascible interns this newsletter off so I can tell you more about her.
For starters—and some of the more savvy among you might have discerned this already—Melanie is a woman. I had never attempted a female protagonist before. And the prospect of it was frankly a little terrifying for me, a guy who has forty-three years of detailed practice being male and no salient experience with any other gender.
But, in this case, I knew I wanted to tell the story of a young parent plunged into the nightmare of having a child taken away by social services. And I realized the story would be more compelling if it was told from the perspective of the mother. Especially if the child in question was a nursing infant.
So, enter Melanie Barrick (named in honor of the breakfast manager at the Hardee's where I write every morning). She's tough. She's self-reliant. She's smart.
Before the book even begins, Melanie has handled a great deal of adversity. Her mother was addicted to pills. Her father abused alcohol and children in equal measure. When Melanie was just nine years old, her parents abandoned her, leaving her to bounce between foster care settings and group homes.
And yet this resilient young woman—the kind who used books to escape her dreary reality, the kind who raised herself right even when the grownups around her couldn't—not only survived, she thrived, winning a scholarship to the University of Virginia. . .
. . . Where her reward was to graduate in 2009, which, as Melanie notes, "has the distinction of being the absolute worst moment in the history of modern America to have entered the job market. I compounded my horrific sense of timing with a degree in English Literature, which meant I was articulate, urbane, and virtually unhirable."
Nevertheless, by the start of Closer Than You Know, she's fashioned a tidy life for herself. She's secured a steady job. She's got a loving husband, a history Ph.D student named Ben. And she's got her baby, Alex, who means everything to her.
The novel begins with Melanie dashing away from work to pick up Alex from childcare, only to learn he's been taken by social services—and no one will tell her why.
From there, the nightmare only blossoms: Melanie is beset by false accusations, lies, and unspeakable mendacity from all sides. What made Melanie so compelling to me is no matter what I threw at her—and I did everything from toss her in jail to make her work at a Waffle House—she found a way to overcome it.
And I can make you a guarantee. Remember how I told you with Say Nothing that you would cry at the end? (And, c'mon, admit it: You did.) With Closer Than You Know, my promise is: Once you start this novel, clear your schedule, because you will not want to put it down.
(As a matter of fact, I invite you to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org—or simply reply to this newsletter—when you finish it. Because I love getting emails from weary, strung out readers at 2 o'clock in the morning.)
Then, if you like it, please tell your friends about the novel, because word of mouth is the most valuable currency any author can receive. I appreciate your support.
No, let's be honest: I need your support. I forever remember that without you, I wouldn't be an author. I'd be a guy sitting in Hardee's having relationships with fictional people in my head.
So please go and enjoy meeting Melanie Barrick. She absolutely captured my heart while I was writing this novel, and I hope she will steal a piece of yours', too.
Happy Release Day,
Order Closer Than You Know: